Expectations aren't very high for Michigan football this fall but it's really hard to imagine the Wolverines losing to teams like Maryland, Nebraska, Rutgers, Northwestern and even Michigan State. Still, depending on who you ask, U-M's 2021 season could be a bit rocky.
Michigan enters the fall football calendar with some strengths, some weaknesses and a lot of unknowns, and with one of the tougher schedules in the country, projected win totals range anywhere from four to 10. Sports books have Michigan's win total set at 7.5, while some national media members think it could be a little worse, while others still think Jim Harbaugh can figure it out in year seven.
CBSSports.com's Tom Fornelli doesn't think Michigan will dominate this year, but he sees U-M doing slightly better than the handicappers do.
Over/Under 7.5 wins
• Wins: Western Michigan, Washington, Northern Illinois, Rutgers, at Nebraska, Northwestern, Indiana, at Maryland
• Losses: at Wisconsin, at Michigan State, at Penn State, Ohio State
Analysis: Given Michigan's recent history under Jim Harbaugh, it feels safe to assume that the Wolverines will lose their three games against Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State. It's a program that has had trouble with the top teams in the Big Ten the last few years. This means that Michigan has to be nearly perfect in the rest of its schedule to reach the over. I think it can do enough more times than not, as I believe every reaction to anything Michigan does -- good or bad -- tends to be an overreaction. Also, when it comes to figuring out what will happen in 2021, I don't want to read too much into anything we saw in the COVID-impacted 2020 season. So, in my eyes, the sky isn't falling in Ann Arbor nearly as quickly as many others seem to believe.
Pick: Over 7.5 (-135)
Michigan is currently a 1.5-point favorite against the Washington Huskies in week two, but a lot of people see UW being one of the surprise teams in the Pac 12. There are some similarities between the two teams. Both have talent, but have a lot of question marks on both sides of the ball. Neither team has a definitive starter at quarterback yet either. Still, the home venue for Michigan could end up being quite valuable in the week-two showdown.
Fornelli has Michigan finishing 8-4, which sort of puts the program in the mud. That obviously won't be good enough to compete for the top spot in the Big Ten, but it's not bad enough to force Warde Manuel's hand when it comes to Jim Harbaugh's future in Ann Arbor. Even though Harbaugh did sign a contract extension earlier this year, the massive pay cut and reduced buyout indicate that it's time to put up or shut up for Harbaugh.